The surprising mystery of resurrection.
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1 Cor. 15:13-14).
I’ve often wondered why Easter celebrations are not nearly such a big deal in our culture (or even in Christian churches) as the celebrations around Christmas. Christmas is the biggest celebration of all the religious holidays. Schools are out for a two-week break; there are parties galore, festive decorations everywhere, and good cheer abounds. The birth of a cute little baby in a manger, celebrated by singing angels and exotic wise men from the East, fires our imaginations. But Easter, not so much. After all, Easter Sunday is preceded by the gloom and doom of Friday’s crucifixion. And then resurrection. Come on, who can really believe that?
Cleopas and his friend walked more than 10 miles with Jesus after his resurrection and even told him (without recognizing him) that some foolish women had seen an empty tomb, and that they had “so hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). But alas. . ..
And Mary, who went to the empty tomb, met a gardener (who was Jesus), but didn’t recognize him because dead people don’t come back from the dead. Thomas wasn’t prepared to believe in resurrection either until he could see and touch. So, even those who had been with Jesus and witnessed the raising of Lazarus, the widow’s son and Jairus’ daughter couldn’t really believe it could happen again. Let’s face it, it’s hard for all of us. Year in and year out people are born, and people die. But people aren’t raised from the dead. They just turn to dust and are no more. Yes, there are those stories in the Bible of the doubting disciples who experienced a risen Christ, and of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and his subsequent proclamation that the resurrection of Jesus is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. Saul, who became Paul, is adamant that Christianity is just a vain whistling in the dark against the ruthless inevitability of death if Jesus’ resurrection is just a wishful myth.
But it’s much easier to get excited about a Christmas birth than an Easter resurrection. Birth we know and understand. Death also. But resurrection?
Put together again
One of the robbers crucified next to Christ asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. And Jesus promises him that he will. I’ve always been struck by that promise to remember. We think of remembering as the cognitive act of keeping something or someone in mind. But I like to think that in the robber’s case and that of our own, it literally means that Jesus will re-member us, that is, put our members (bodily parts) back together again. After all, he knows the unique genetic code of each one of us, and just as in the beginning he made humankind out of the dust of the earth, so too he will re-member us on that last day when the trumpet sounds.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! We, too, will rise again! Blessed Easter to us all!